AY: Conference Interpreter is indeed an envied profession, he/she can accompany dignitaries, take part in big events, participate in major decisive situations, get involved with unimaginable occupations, go to places closed to the general public... I often say jokingly that I’ve worked for ground-air&sea!
8sino: Has Conference Interpreting always been your dream? How did you become a conference interpreter?
高中毕业前，我有幸遇到一位在卢森堡欧共体工作的法国翻译，她向我介绍了巴黎三大高等翻译学校 (巴黎高翻ESIT) ; 但那是研究所级别，是大学毕业后才能去报考的。由于报考条件之一是在第二外语和第三外语国家生活过至少半年，因此我申请了美国奖学金，去了纽约大学，学习后回法国考取了巴黎高翻。
AY: No, it wasn’t, this is a long story: I grew up in Rome(Italy), then came to France when I was in high school and learnt French, in addition to my Chinese mandarin, Italian, English and German(that I studied in Rome), I spoke 5 languages. Though my language proficiency was not at the same level in each one of the 5, I suppose I was more interested in languages than youngsters of my age.
After high school, I was lucky to meet a French translator working for the European Community in Luxemburg, she introduced me to ESIT (Ecole Supérieure d’Interprètes et de Traducteurs) at University of Paris Sorbonne III, but it’s of postgraduate level, and I could apply for it only after I’ve got a B.A.. As one of the prerequisites of the applicant for ESIT was having spent at least 6 months in the country of his/her 1st and 2nd foreign language, I applied for a US scholarship and was admitted to CUNY (City University of New York), after that stay I came back to Paris and passed ESIT entrance exam.
During my studies at ESIT, I obtained a US scholarship and went to MIIS (Monterey Institute of International Studies) in Monterey, California, where I got a M.A., then came back to Paris and passed my ESIT graduation exam and received a DESS diploma (French postgraduate level). Since then, I’ve been working as a conference interpreter and also went back to ESIT to teach conference interpreting.
至于方法，可以因人而异，我喜欢 «联想 » : 将新字与影像或事物做联想便于记住。
AY: An international conference lasts only 1 to a few days at the maximum, it is indeed very short just like a passing cloud. Simultaneous Interpreting for e.g., when you turn off the mike, it’s already over, however, information passed and communication bridges built during the sessions are not lost, exchanges between delegates of different countries and texts in different languages are kept.
Interpreting for international conferences can touch upon different fields and occupations, as each of them is unique (difference in profession makes one feel worlds apart), an interpreter can’t know everything, therefore, preparation before a conference is of utmost importance. The arrival of Internet has certainly made my life easier, when I started in this profession, I had to go and collect all the materials or make them sent to me, but as I was often away from home, sometimes I couldn’t get them in time for my meetings. Whereas now, I just go on Internet and look for materials or have them sent to me by e-mail, it saves time and energy and I can prepare for my next meeting no matter where I am.
Beside meeting preparation, I pay attention in my daily life to reading and listening to words, to get acquainted to new idioms or expressions. Sometimes when I hear jokes or funny phrases, I think of how to translate them into the other languages I know.
As for the method, it depends, it can be very personal, I like to do “associations”: I try to associate words to images or things, so I can remember them easily.
AY: Simultaneous Interpreting is quite physical, even for well trained and experienced interpreters, because Simultaneous Interpreting (SI) is energy-consuming, it combines mental labor and physical labor, 2 persons in a booth take turn every 20 minutes, that is what AIIC (French acronym for International Association of Conference Interpreters) and a group of physicians tested and concluded as the least damaging timespan for the interpreter’s health. I’ve been told that once an interpreter worked alone in SI for a whole day of intensive meeting and died of a sudden death.
During the process of Simultaneous Interpreting , I think the most difficult part is the hearing (how to listen), because if the interpreter doesn’t hear or understand correctly, then every subsequent step is wrong, whereas if he/she hears and understands correctly, then he/she can convey the message in his/her best aptitude mastering the way to express it; of course, people who don’t know how to get their thoughts across cannot be tolerated in this profession.
AY: I don’t think Simultaneous Interpreting (SI) can’t be perfect, I can say it is very difficult to be perfect. The reason is simple, you must_in an instant_ take care of listening and understanding, convert the original into the target language, say the translated speech and at the same time control what you just pronounced while continuing to listen to the coming speech. When a meeting is thoroughly prepared, it is not impossible to reach perfection in SI, at least we must pursue perfection. The most common error is when the interpreter hears the speech, doesn’t get the true meaning and say it in a hurry, or even worse, he/she realizes the error but does not take the responsibility to correct it. Another common mistake is when the interpreter only pays attention to listening to the original and does not control what he/she says in translation, so does not realize a slip of the tongue or an incomplete sentence has been made.
至于特别囧的时候，倒是有一件趣事可以跟大家分享 : 我刚出道的时候，曾有机会到一特殊基地，当我一面翻译提醒大家要注意自己身上的任何纸做的东西时，说时迟那时快*，刚好一架飞机滑行经过我身边，我手中的翻译笔记本上的纸立刻飞了起来，那些熊腰虎背、军服笔挺的将领们立即到处弯腰帮我捡纸。原来他们是怕纸被飞机引擎吸进去，会对叶片不好。当时我真是惊慌得不知所措，恨不得就地挖个洞躲进去。事后再想起当时英姿焕发的将领们到处捡纸的模样，又好笑又可爱，真是难为他们了 !
AY: I’ve been very lucky, because in all these years, my profession brought me satisfaction and gave me many many fantastic memories, but because I’m bound by professional secrecy, I can’t talk about them. However, there are public events I can share with you, such as doing Consecutive and Simultaneous Interpreting at Cannes for the International Film Festival where I worked for Fan Bingbing, Wang Xiaoshuai, Zhang Ziyi, John Woo, Takeshi Kaneshiro(Jin ChengWu), Huang Xiaoming, Tong Dawei, as well as doing CI and SI for Shu Qi and Jet Li on TV, those were very interesting experiences.
As for funny and embarrassing moments, there’s one episode I can share with you, it’s at my beginning, once I had the opportunity of working in a military base, while I was translating to the military officers the instruction to pay attention to anything in paper, at that very moment a jet-fighter passed nearby and all pages of my note-book flew away, all the robust officers of dignified bearing in well ironed uniforms bent down to pick up my papers, actually it’s because paper could damage blades of engines, I was terrified and extremely embarrassed so much that I wished there were a hole for me to hide. Even now I still laugh and feel sorry when I remember images of dashing and spirited generals bending down in a hurry to gather and pick up papers for me, I wish to tell them if I could: “sorry guys! ”
就业方面，在法国、比利时、瑞士某地区，法语同传还是有市场 ; 除了上述国家，还有非洲法语国家和加拿大的法语区都需要好的同传，法语仍然有出路。
AY: With the rapid development of information technology, people communicate and exchange more and more, the number of persons going online has increased exponentially, and people knowing English are increasing, so it’s a fact that French is declining. On the job market, even SI interpreters working with French must have a good understanding of English, because sometimes in international conferences, only the English version of texts is provided.
As for job opportunities, they do and still exist in France, Belgium and parts of Switzerland for interpreters working with French. If it’s in China, relations with French-speaking African countries and a part of Canada also need good interpreters with French, so there are still ways out.
AY: In all these years, I participated in several machine-interpreting trials but none of them turned out successful. Although modern technology has made tremendous progress, it cannot yet react like the human brain and cannot convert thoughts into another language depending on the context, nuances and speaking environment: the same words take up diverse meanings in different circumstances, this is what a computer is unable to do for the time being, except for operating manuals or directions for use.
AY: To people who wish to become a Conference Interpreter and who are interested in Simultaneous Interpreting in particular, I’d like to say: “don’t only look at the bright side of this profession _it is indeed very attractive and quite well paid_, because it is thanks to very hard labor. Beside good enunciation, clear analytical mind and language proficiency, to become a good interpreter one needs also (very important) sincerity and learning spirit, the right attitude to pave one’s way to reach one day the wide and broad road of success!